The PR Spotlight: Arik Hanson (ACH Communications)
Today we have a very special guest on 'The PR Spotlight'. He is named one of the top 50 PR people worth following on Twitter. His blog, Communications Conversations, has been recognized as one of the leading industry PR blogs and he is a regular contributor to several other PR blogs, such as PR Daily and the PR Breakfast Club. Please give him your undivided attention... Arik Hanson.
1. Arik, could you describe your career shortly?
'I’ve spent almost 17 years in the PR and marketing business. The first 5 of those were spent hopping around from job to job figuring out what I wanted to specialize in. I spent a few years at an accounting firm here in Minneapolis, a year at an agency, and a couple years at a health care organization before starting my own digital PR/marketing consulting business.'
2. How do you explain what PR is to someone outside of the industry?
'I help companies influence their customers and potential customers’ behavior. Pretty simple, right?'
3. What challenges do you see for the PR industry?
'For one, we have to figure out this blogger outreach thing. As a blogger myself, I get a fair amount of pitches—and 90 percent of the pitches I receive are frightening. And, my other friends who blog tell me similar stories. I understand the same thing happens on the traditional media relations side with “spray and pray” tactics, but as an industry I see that as an “area of improvement” for us all.'
4. How important is knowledge of 'social' nowadays?
'In the PR industry? Critical. I mean, if you want to stay relevant, at least. You’re probably asking the wrong guy, as I focus much of my work on what I would call “digital PR and marketing.” But, I truly believe the more PR counselors shirk the digital side of our business, the less and less relevant they become each day.'
5. What is the role of a PR professional in this digital age?
'We play many roles now—with many hats. That’s the beauty—it’s not just one role. We play the role of counselor. Art director. Translator (between coders and clients, for instance). Content creator and curator. We wear so many different hats.'
6. What book should every PR professional read?
'I really like Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s not your traditional PR book, but it’s all about change and why people (and companies) struggle with it so much. That’s such a key concept to so much of our work.'
7. What are the must have skills for the future PR pro?
'I wrote a post and gave a presentation on this very topic to the PRSA chapter in Seattle, Wash. in June: '10 skills the PR pro of 2022 must have'. Among the most critical skills, in my view, are: a deeper understanding of analytics, art direction, video production and ad copywriting. Yes, ad copywriting (think Facebook ads).'
8. Who, in your opinion, is THE thought leader in the PR industry?
'I’m not sure there’s ONE thought leader in our industry. And keep in mind, a lot of people that are positioned as “thought leaders” aren’t actually doing the front-lines work. I actually look up to folks like Rachel Kay, Gini Dietrich and Deirde Breakenridge. People who have been running successful agencies or consultancies for YEARS. That’s the kind of success I admire.'
9. What’s hot on your radar right now?
I’m fascinated at how many facets of community management rely heavily on art direction. Think about it. Facebook relies HEAVILY on visuals now. So you need people who think about status updates like advertisements. Compelling headline paired with striking visual. What about Pinterest? Don’t think there’s some art direction going on there? What was once saved for designers is now becoming something we must own. Not to mention, that skill set pairing is very difficult to find in the PR industry.
10. What advice would you give a PR newbie?
Be a joiner. Raise your hand and volunteer for every assignment you can. Whether it's writing a social media plan for a pro-bono client or sitting on the agency's employee planning committee, the more experience the better when you're younger. And, by raising your hand you're showing initiative. Managers and business owners like that. One final tip: Take on the work no one else wants. Your boss will love you for it--and he/she won't soon forget it. And that next assignment he/she gives you is sure to be one everyone wants.
Liked the answers? And would you love to stay in touch with Arik? Follow him on Twitter at @arikhanson, connect with him on LinkedIn or check out his blog Communications Conversations.
Again, thanks so much Arik!
More about 'The PR Spotlight'? Check out our other interviews with Mark Ragan (PR Daily), Gini Dietrich (Arment Dietrich) and Martin Waxman (Thornley Fallis Communications).